By Derek Bateman
I've got a job at last! Blogging to end immediately…I'm hunting out my suit…Listen to this – BBC Scotland wants a public affairs adviser, someone with intimate knowledge of Scottish politics, who understands broadcasting and can advise senior management at PQ. It's made for me…
They're advertising for a good communicator – duh! – who can sort through a mass of information quickly and produce a coherent synopsis and tell the managers what to do to improve their image. Why did they bother to advertise? Must be able to talk with politicians (Johann will forgive me) and find out what's happening in the corridors of power to tip off Kenny McQuarrie in advance. It's made for me.
Of course I'll miss this sharing my thoughts with all of you from the Maryhill Media Centre but it was only a stop-gap until I walked back into the Beeb as a rehabilitated big shot. And just before I go – can I say to you whining Nats out there that I have never detected the merest hint of bias in any of the BBC's referendum coverage. Oh yes, I humoured you to keep you reading to get my numbers up but I knew they were doing their very best in there and anyway they know they'll be on the winning side. So, farewell suckers. You know where you can stick your Yes stickers…
The job? Well it's Adviser to BBC Scotland Public Policy and Corporate Affairs, answerable to one Ian Small, remember him? My good friend Ian is the man who wrote a perfectly reasonable letter of complaint to Dr Robertson* of some university nobody has ever heard of who dredged up the old chestnut of bias and had to be put in his place for impertinence.
I think Ian and I could work very closely together in the interests of the BBC. I know he never reads this blog anyway. I know this because a colleague asked him if he'd seen my coverage of the bias affair and he shouted: 'Don't speak to me about that bloody blog' and put his fingers in his ears.
The job is directly related to the referendum and independence, which is funny because that's exactly what I said a few posts ago. I said they had misjudged it and needed strategy advice. I said it wasn't business as usual as they claimed and pointed out they had no one in the team who was the voice or face of BBC Scotland who could represent them to the wider world. It must just be coincidence that they've reached the same conclusion now.
I was pleased but puzzled to read they want someone who can 'build and establish trusted and effective working relationships with key parliamentary, government and corporate stakeholders' as that's what I said they weren't doing. In fact I said it was a signal failing of the Director McQuarrie that he had no on-going personal relationship with his greatest ally in Scotland, the First Minister.
'Must be able to deal with a wide range of people with tact and diplomacy'. (I'll give Ian a wee lesson in letter-writing to innocent academics)
There's a reference to dealing with complaints about referendum issues but to be honest I think the old method's the best…Dear Sir/Madam, Fuck off, Yours sincerely.
I also suspect that since none of the high heid yins are remotely effective at answering questions that this appointee may find him/herself fronting up before MSPs to save senior execs the bother. To be fair, I was told that there was no initial plan on the media committee to investigate BBC Scotland until John Boothman gave evidence. He appeared so shifty, they thought he must be hiding something and there was unanimous cross-party support for a full inquiry.
Mind you, two hard facts emerge from reading this. First, it is Grade 10 in the BBC pay scale. Now that's the top of the range for a programme-making journalist – as in an Editor – but it is below management, so anyone on the outside dealing with this person will know they have no real clout. It means they are officially not a decision-maker but mostly a messenger. The other people who know this are the BBC bosses themselves which means, if for example, bad news comes back from Holyrood about the quality of Radio Scotland, the Head of Radio, our chum jolly Jeff Zycinski will brush it aside and carry on regardless. Only an executive with authority cannot be ignored.
Secondly, my heart bleeds that £50,000 can be found for a corporate position, one that does management's job for them, when the same people sacked 35 journalists, ridding the BBC of experience and quality at the very time in its history it was most needed.
If they wanted a human shield, why not save money by asking Brian Taylor, their best connected and most respected political staffer, to take on the role? This is a sign of crisis management. If such a person was envisaged why wait until six months before the vote? Why not two years ago when, as I say, all the planning should have been done. Dysfunctional? You bet. But how else would you want them to spend your money…making Scottish programmes?
(I'm trying to think where I left my suit…and where's that application form?)
*Just been made up to full Professor at UWS. Now Professor John W Robertson, Convenor: CCI Research Ethics Committee, Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, School of Creative and Cultural Industries, University of the West of Scotland. week done him. Must be for services to broadcasting…
Courtesy of Derek Bateman